Plan Now to Lessen Caregiver Burden

When elderly family members reach the point that long-term care is necessary, hopefully it is a decision that has been discussed well in advance including plans to finance nursing care.  But according to a 2016 study of LTC trends, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, few older Americans have saved for their future care or even discussed the issue with family.

This refusal to plan for an increasingly longer old age leaves many families faced with making difficult decisions, often in a time of crisis.  The survey found that seniors and loved-ones generally want care to be provided at home but caregiving without support can take an enormous toll on the health and well-being of the carer.   The average cost of long-term care is $80,300 a year (for a semi-private room) but only 4 in 10 seniors reported they feel confident they have the finances to pay for care, leaving much of care for elderly adults being provided by family and other loved-ones.

Many in the U.S. believe Medicaid will pay for their long-term care needs but few seniors understand the requirements to spend down most of their assets before they can receive government-funded nursing care.

Taking time off work to care for an ill family member can also cost caregivers financially.  Even in states that offer paid family leave programs, such as California, workers are often reluctant to claim these benefits for fear of losing their job or being unable to manage with a reduced income.

Caregivers of elderly family often spend much of their own money to help out, sometimes thousands of dollars each year and while seniors are more likely to be worried about being a burden than about dying, failing to make concrete plans can leave families with a mess to sort out when the time comes.  Nearly 40 million Americans are unpaid family caregivers and as the 78 million baby boomers age,  informal caregivers will take on increasingly heavy burdens.

So then, with all this evidence supporting how important planning for long-term care is for seniors, why is it so difficult for parents and adult children to sit down and discuss future needs?  Most are worried that elderly parents will be offended, upset or depressed talking about end of life care.  But if expressed with patience, love, concern and directness, it can be done.  It won’t happen overnight and there is no perfect time, but opening lines of communication and listening to the concerns of all involved is a good beginning.

For examples of how to open a dialogue about planning for the future with an older family members and begin the planning process, visit the American Association of Retired Persons website by following this link .